One year ago, members of the royal family got the call that so many families receive around the world every day; their mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, their queen, was in her final hours.
Over the next several hours, each member of the family descended upon Balmoral Castle in the Scottish Highlands. For a family that at times seems out of touch with the rest of the world, they experienced a tragedy relatable to all.
On September 8, 2022, at 6:30 p.m. UK time, The Royal Family Twitter/X account announced the death of Queen Elizabeth II. It simply read, “The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon. The King and Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow.”
The death of the queen brought grief felt around the world. She had become a symbol of strength and was regarded as a worldly, grandmotherly figure. Even at 96 years old, she was a figure that everyone expected to be around forever, which is why her death was heartbreaking and shocking.
A queen for the ages
Queen Elizabeth II had reigned for 70 years at the time of her death, and for many around the globe, she was the only monarch that people knew. She was the last of the world leaders still in power who had served during WWII.
Modern Britain found its stability and strength through the enduring reign of Queen Elizabeth II. She adopted the leadership style of her father, King George VI, in post-war Britain while embracing the evolution of the times.
Her coronation was the first to be televised, inviting the members of what was formerly known as the British Empire to feel as though they were taking part in the historic tradition.
Her devotion to the people of Britain, the Commonwealth and beyond was just as strong as her devotion to God. As queen, she held the titles of Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England. Through her annual Christmas broadcasts, the queen expressed how faith and God had helped shape her life and the way in which she led it.
At 21-years-old, the queen, then Princess Elizabeth, made a solemn vow to the people of the British Empire, “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.” The Queen ended the speech asking God to help her make good on her vow.
The Queen stewarded her people through the highs and lows of history including the Cuban Missile Crisis, Cold War, The Gulf War, September 11, the War on Terror and the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the early days of the pandemic, fear and confusion gripped the world as it was brought to a standstill. Queen Elizabeth II spoke to the people of Britain, the Commonwealth, and the world. She thanked National Health Service workers and essential workers for continuing their jobs to support others.
In her famously calm and stoic voice, the queen said, “We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return. We will be with our friends again, we will be with our families again, we will meet again.”
During a period when people were experiencing frequent loss, Queen Elizabeth II did what she had done so many times during her reign and reminded the world that better days would, in fact, return.
‘A promise with destiny kept’
During her reign, the queen experienced several personal losses, but through strength, faith and duty, the queen never wavered from her responsibilities.
On Feb. 6, 2022, nearly seven months prior to her passing, the queen offered a reflection of her reign to mark her ascension day. The Queen spoke of hope and optimism heading into the year, highlighting the things in life for which to be grateful after the turmoil of the preceding pandemic years.
In her statement, the queen wrote, “These last seven decades have seen extraordinary progress socially, technologically and culturally that has benefited us all.” The Queen shared her confidence that the future would continue offering similar advances.
The Queen also took time to reflect on the admiration she had received. People from all different backgrounds and faiths offered thanks, gratitude and humility for her loyalty and affection.
Her statement continued, “and when, in the fullness of time, my son Charles becomes King, I know you will give him and his wife, Camilla, the same support that you have given me, and it is my sincere wish that, when that time comes, Camilla will be known as Queen Consort as she continues her own loyal service.”
In her final days, Queen Elizabeth II, surrounded by family and laughter, took great interest in her racehorses. One of which, Love Affair, won a race at Goodwood Racecourse on Tuesday Sept. 6, 2022, at 2:00 p.m. UK time. According to The Daily Mail, the queen spoke with her race manager, Clive Cox, earlier that morning who described her as being “sharp as a tack.”
On that Tuesday morning, the queen presided over her fifteenth and final meeting with an incoming prime minister. In the photographs taken of the event, the queen can be seen smiling and standing to greet incoming Prime Minister Liz Truss.
While at the time it was unknown these would be the final photographs taken of her majesty, there could not have been a more fitting documentation of the event. Queen Elizabeth II happily dispensed her duties right until the very end.
In his first speech after the queen’s death, King Charles III (formerly Prince Charles) said about his mother, “Queen Elizabeth was a life well lived; a promise with destiny kept, and she is mourned most deeply in her passing.”
The Washington Post reported approximately 2,000 mourners attended the queen’s funeral including 90 world leaders. Her coffin, draped in the Royal Standard, was adorned by the Imperial State Crown. King Charles III, his siblings, and his children solemnly walked behind the queen as the coffin was pulled by 142 Navy Sailors.
Queen Elizabeth II would be laid to rest with her parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, and her husband, Prince Philip in the King George VI Memorial Chapel at Windsor Castle. As the queen’s coffin was lowered into the Royal Vault, the moment was a final realization of her permanent absence.
As time passed, the Royal Family and the world carried on with business as usual. Calling back to the “Keep Calm and Carry On” British slogan of WWII, Carry On is exactly what was expected.
For many, however, the void left by the queen’s passing is still hard to accept. Perhaps, because she had become a constant in both life and history.
King Charles III and his wife, Queen Camilla, were coronated on May 6, 2023, marking the first time there had been a British coronation in 71 years.
This new era of British Monarchy was a time of great change, and with the queen’s death, some Britons believe the time has come for the monarchy to end.
According to BBC Panorama, since King Charles III ascended to the throne, protesters have been spotted among supporters at various events attended by the king. BBC reports that these anti-monarchists, “acknowledged they would have been reluctant to carry out such protests when the late queen was alive”.
It would seem, however, King Charles should not be too alarmed. BBC Panorama conducted a survey on YouGov that showed somewhat favorable results for the Royal Family.
YouGov/BBC Panorama polled 4,592 UK adults asking if they believed Britain should continue to have a monarchy in the future. Responses show 58% feel the monarchy should continue.
The respondents were also asked if they felt the Royal Family strayed too far from tradition toward a more modern monarchy. Forty-four percent of respondents said the Royal Family had gotten the balance about right.
A direct question about King Charles III, however, showed a shift in public opinion. Forty-five percent of respondents indicated they believed him to be out of touch.
King Charles III has historically spoken on his plans to create a slimmer and more modern monarchy. Based on the results of the BBC Panorama poll, the British people have recognized the monarchy’s modernization but find that their new king is no longer in touch with their daily experiences.
While King Charles III is not nearly as young as his mother was when she ascended the throne, he has made the same vow to the people of Britain, the Commonwealth and the world. He will devote the remaining time God grants him to serving his people and carrying out the duties of King.
King Charles III inherited a monarchy in a somewhat less stable world than that of when the queen came to the throne. At the time of the queen’s ascension, post-war Britain was ready for change, and a young, new sovereign would breathe fresh air into the UK.
Family in-fighting, however, is an issue both monarchs have in common.
Queen Elizabeth II’s reign was defined early by the abdication of her uncle, King Edward VIII, which was the catalyst event that set her on a course with destiny. An event which saw the disgraced king banished from England as an unwelcome member of the family.
Today, the king and the Royal Family find themselves in a similar situation with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, who have been estranged since leaving the Royal Family in 2019.
As with most matriarchs, Queen Elizabeth II was the glue that bound her family together, another aspect of life in which the Royal Family can relate to so many others around the world. Though Harry and Meghan stepped down as senior members of the Royal Family three years prior to the death of the queen, much of the fallout occurred following her death.
Royal commenters have suggested that the queen was sensitive to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s positions and wanted to avoid a fracture within the family that paralleled that of her late uncle, the disgraced king.
It remains unclear what the British Monarchy will look like in the coming years, but the reign of Queen Elizabeth II depicted a young princess grow and mature with the world around her.
Let the last seven decades be known as the age of Elizabeth II, the British sovereign of enduring grace and legacy.